November 4th, 2007

Chris Keeley

Old habits die hard

Old habits die hard

Twenty years ago, Will Keighley started on the road to recovery from addiction. Now he wonders whether he will be the last survivor of his Narcotics Anonymous group

Crack user

"For those of us who had spent every day of the past 10 years completely wasted, even the idea of getting through a couple of days without drugs felt like some kind of miracle." Photograph: Rex

It was a very English funeral. Half-stifled tears in a small church in Essex; professional pall-bearers with professionally solemn faces; a slightly awkward, tentative address from an older brother; solid Victorian hymns that sang of a triumph over death that no one really felt. Apart from the two heart-breaking readings from his children, I'm not sure Adam would have recognised his own funeral. But then, funerals are for the living, and this was the way his family had chosen to say their goodbyes. And when it is such a pointlessly early death - Adam was 52 - there probably isn't a right way of saying goodbye.

I hadn't seen Adam for four or five years before he died. I had wondered, though, why he had stopped replying to my Christmas cards. Then I heard rumours that he was using again. At first, I didn't want to believe them; he had been clean for more than 15 years and had always seemed so strong. But when he ended up in intensive care with acute renal failure and was given less than 24 hours to live, I was forced out of my denial.

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